The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 II bucks the trend in cameras. It's the size of a compact system camera or small DSLR, but has a fixed lens like a compact. It lacks the appeal of an interchangeable lens system camera, or the portability of a compact camera.
There aren't many high-end bridge cameras (as they were once called), with the RX10 II sitting in a category that's dominated mostly by superzooms that are affordable and practical, and in the majority of cases, not the most advanced cameras around.
But carrying a price tag of £1200 (gulp), this is a far cry from a £250 superzoom. It has an enthusiast, or pro, specification to start with, and not just in the price tag. Firstly there's the magnesium alloy body, meaning it's hardwearing, and secondly, it's dust and moisture protected, a desirable trait for those wanting to use a camera in all conditions.
As the name suggests, this is the second iteration of this model and the previous version was rather good. It's a natural sibling to the excellent Sony Cyber-shot RX100 models, launching alongside the RX100 IV, and offers many of the same advancements.
We got our hands on a pre-production sample of the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 II, although we weren't able to test the outright picture quality of this new model as we weren't allowed to keep any of the shots we took in our brief hands-on session.
Like the RX100 IV, the RX10 II is really about the sensor. It carries a 1.0-type CMOS sensor that Sony has stacked with attached DRAM. That means the sensor has its own integrated memory to give it plenty of processing power, resulting in performance that's five times faster than the predecessor sensor.
Not only are you getting a large sensor - meaning lots of light for lots for great performance - but it's now able to operate much faster, bringing with it a range of high speed benefits.
There are fast shutter speeds up to 1/32000 sec meaning more flexibility in bright conditions and the shutter is anti-distortion too. Basically, because the sensor scan has almost no lag, it won't lead to the distortion you can get on fast moving objects with a normal sensor.
Then there's the benefits offered in video. Not only are you getting 4K video at 100Mbps, but the RX10 II offers longer durations of capture, up to 29 minutes of top quality 4K, making it better suited to video than the RX100 IV, that's limited to just 4 minutes at the top settings. Then there's the super slow-motion down to 1000fps, with a new HFR (high frame rate) setting on the mode dial.
This is all aided by the attached Zeiss lens. It's an f/2.8 constant lens, offering 24-200mm (35mm equiv), sitting in front of that enhanced sensor. If there's one criticism of the big lens, it's that it's rather slow to deploy, as it was before. This isn't like the speedy twist you might apply to a conventional zoom lens, but at least it powers out quietly. All that lens also makes this camera a little front heavy, but with a decent grip, it's not hard to keep stable.
It lends itself to using the EVF for every shot, not only due to the size of the camera, but the prominence of eyepiece. It houses an enhanced XGA OLED viewfinder which is wonderfully clear and sharp. There was a time that we accepted that EVFs were inferior to optical viewfinders and for the most part they are. But the RX10 II (and the RX100 IV) go some way to challenging that notion, there's no fuzz or grain, so it's great to use.
Away from the new sensor-enhanced functions, the RX10 II offers the same feature set as it did before. We'd expect the same performance, but it raises the same questions, and already we've identified some of the shortcomings that bothered us about the previous version of this camera. It's expensive and we're still trying to figure out exactly who will opt for this type of camera at that £1200 price, over a system camera that's the same size.
But if that's you, then the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 II is enhanced and we're certain it will be a great performer, offering a great lens and some great new shooting features.
It will be hitting shelves in summer 2015 and we'll bring you a full review as soon as we can.